Your Genealogy Staycation, by George G. Morgan

A recent addition to everyday vernacular is “staycation.” Its definition is to spend a vacation at or near one’s home. The global economic recession and huge increases in fuel prices have caused people all over the world to consider ways to conserve money. That includes how people choose to spend their vacations and leisure time.

My vacations have always included genealogical research of some sort. That has meant scheduling travel to or near places where I can conduct some sort of research. I feel the economic crunch like everyone else, and I realize that my genealogical research can be done, in very many cases, from my home or through nearby libraries and archives. I am fortunate that the public libraries in Tampa and Largo, Florida, each have intensive genealogical and local history collections. In addition, the University of South Florida in Tampa holds an impressive group of special collections related to genealogical pursuits. And of course there’s the Internet.

Investigate the Internet
There are massive amounts of materials available on or through the Internet. Many records have been digitized and indexed for easy access. Ancestry and its various geographical entities (UK, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, and most recently China) are home to many record types including census records, ships’ passenger lists, WWI draft registrations, civil registrations, military service records, death certificates, family and local history books, original governmental indexes, newspapers, and much more. Other online subscription sites also provide access to these and many other types of digitized original records. If you haven’t taken the time to investigate these digitized records in a while, you’ll be surprised how much treasure is available.

Some governmental agencies have published indexes or have digitized original documents at their websites. Use your browser to search for the governmental offices of that entity. For example, the following is a search for Augusta County, Virginia. (Quotation marks are included to narrow the search.)

government “augusta county” virginia

Even if the government office does not have records online, they may have indexes to them. You will also find e-mail and postal addresses to which you can direct inquiries and requests for documents. In addition, remember that all government offices now accept credit cards and this reduces the turnaround times previously required when writing a check, processing a money order, or submitting international postal coupons.

Most genealogical and historical societies now have a presence on the Internet. You will want to visit those sites in the local geographical area you are researching and make contact to determine what records and indexes they may have. They also can be extremely helpful in directing you to other organizations and facilities that can be of help to you. You can communicate via e-mail or telephone, and this too reduces turnaround times.

Cyndi’s List (www.cyndislist.com), as well as the USGenWeb Project (www.usgenweb.org) and the WorldGenWeb Project (www.worldgenweb.org) are excellent resources for locating original documents. Once you know where the documents are, you can make contact to request copies of the originals.

Find-A-Grave (www.findagrave.com) is a premier online resource for locating or posting interment information. At this writing, with 25 million grave entries for cemeteries all over the world, there may be a good chance of locating some of your ancestors’ or family members’ graves.

The number of websites at which you can locate digitized original documents is enormous, and even more have indexes and transcriptions to point you to the repositories holding the originals.

Explore Library and Archive Databases
Libraries and archives provide access to a number of expensive subscription databases that are available either in their facilities or via remote access using your library card. Plan a short trip to some or all of these nearby locations. You can determine what databases they offer by visiting their individual websites.

Among the databases that may available to you are America’s Genealogy Bank (newspapers and documents), HeritageQuest Online, Historical Newspapers (Atlanta; Chicago; New York; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; and others), the Biography and Genealogy Master Index, Digital Sanborn Maps, Who’s Who, and other databases. All of these resources can potentially provide additional resources you may never have seen before.

Read and Post Some Messages
Message boards, such as those at Ancestry (boards.ancestry.com), and GenForum (genforum.genealogy.com), provide you with access to surnames, geographical locations, and many other topics. You can read the posted messages and the archives, and you can post your own queries. You don’t have to subscribe to Ancestry to use the message boards; you simply need to be a registered user. After that, you can post messages and have Ancestry send you an e-mail alert whenever a new message has been posted to a board in which you are interested.

Mailing lists remain an exceptionally powerful resource for sharing information with other researchers. RootsWeb hosts the majority of genealogical mailing lists in the world. These are listed at (lists.rootsweb.ancestry.com) and you can subscribe to messages and post your own. I personally suggest subscribing to the Digest Mode version of mailing lists. This format sends one message with many postings inside, as opposed to List Mode, which sends each message, posted as an individual e-mail.

Stay-at-Home Genealogist
As you can see, you don’t necessarily have to take a fuel-expensive road trip or spend big bucks to fly somewhere to advance your genealogical research. A staycation can be the way to spend your vacation time. Using the Internet or visiting local libraries and archives can yield a rewarding batch of new and important information to your research. You can then expand your contacts in other geographical areas via telephone or e-mail to request copies of original documents. It may not be as enjoyable as “being there” but, in these economically stressful times, you’ll feel good about being fiscally practical.

Happy Staycation!
George

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George G. Morgan is the best-selling author of “The Official Guide to Ancestry.com” and “How to Do Everything with Your Genealogy.” George and Drew Smith produce The Genealogy Guys Podcast each week (www.thegenealogyguys.com). George is also now teaching online genealogical workshops for Pharos Tutors and for the Continuing Education Division of the University of South Florida in Tampa. Visit his company’s website at AhaSeminars.com (www.ahaseminars.com) to view his schedule of upcoming conference events.  

7 thoughts on “Your Genealogy Staycation, by George G. Morgan

  1. I’m surprised that there isn’t a mention going to a local grave yard and making an inventory of ALL graves!

    1. You could be helping someone from outside your area by posting this on one of the “gravesite” type websites.
    2. It will make for an interesting thing to get out of the house and do.
    3. It can be made into a family project.

    Here is a copy of a blog I wrote a few weeks ago about this subject:

    I don’t understand WHY people who are volunteering for the “GenWeb” project don’t have cemeteries transcribed, EXCEPT for their own families.

    Excuse me?

    I’m into a genweb site. Okay, all is going smoothly. I know an ancestor is buried there. No problem, right? I get this wonderful page, describing the cemetery, where it’s located (sometimes even driving directions!), maybe a picture of the entrance, and information that the cemetery has been in continual use since 1700. Okay, jackpot, right? WRONG!

    Apparently only 3 people were buried in this cemetery. They all have the same last name. All were buried in the 1700′s.

    I’m 2600 miles from this place. The person who transcribed the cemetery (yeah, I know…) is no longer available at the email addy given.

    My advice: If you are going to transcribe a cemetery, DO THE ENTIRE CEMETERY. Not just your family. If you’re going to go to the county/parish plat room (for map of cemetery lots) or to the local courthouse/City hall for burial permits, don’t just do your own family. Heck, you’re already there. Think of the service you’re doing for others. Don’t be selfish.

    Make a day or two of it. Bring a picnic lunch. Involve the family or friends.

    How about this: Make a point to fully transcribe a cemetery near you. It will help others who are “into” this sort of thing. Take a few days out of your life and just do it. One day, someone in a family will appreciate the time you took to do this.

    Pick a cemetery. Any cemetery. Go to the plat room for a map of the cemetery (including lot numbers). Then go to the county/City-Town and find out if they kept any burial permits to that cemetery. Get copies, or write down what they have (sometimes even names of parents or spouse, or cause of death!). Then go to the cemetery and write down what is on the tombstone. Go home and type it out in (Georgia or Verana type) and submit it to the GenWeb project for your county/parish/burough. Be sure to type in the date that the cemetery was transcribed so people who are researching will know how up to date it is, or others will know that they can go from there to add graves.

    You can also submit it to the tombstone project.

    Get going! Have fun. Turn it into a family service project (everyone needs one of those) to teach children that service is something that needs to be done for their fellow families.

    PS: I would love to see people in other countries doing this also!

  2. People in some other countries are doing this, as I’ve found my great grandparents cemetery on line in England. The lady took pictures of the grave stones & in some cases put in the ladies maiden names on the listings & they are very good pictures. I was also able to print the picture from my computer. I happened to have a couple pictures of the grave stone from before, 1902 or so , then one I took in 1967 & now one from 08.

  3. I have a question, am I being charged for this publication, just wondering?

    Colleen N Jolly
    Bamberg, SC
    803-245-28963

  4. Colleen, I haven’t been charged for this publication. Even when I didn’t subscribe.

    Carol: That’s what I mean by checking with burial permit folks. With that, you can discover maiden names, etc. Whomever did the work that you looked at was an absolute GEM!

  5. No Colleen, there is no charge for the Ancestry Weekly Journal. We are a free service of Ancestry.com, available to members and free registered users. I hope you enjoy your sub!

    Juliana

  6. Excuse me I just transcribed a cemetery in the township I live in and I know NOBODY in this cemetery! I did it because others have done the ones I could only inquire about and I wanted to give back. I have absouloutly NO relation in this area. Not all of the GENWEB volunteers are that way and I take offence to Julie’s Comment! And by the way I did all 1400 plus people.

  7. This is a wonderful article. It gave me lots of ideas to use next summer. Instead of always planning to go out-of-state to do our research/search, we can stay within our state and find a lot of inexpensive/free things to do.

    Patricia

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